What is the Quickest Most Ethical Way of Killing a Fish

Humanely killed fish can also improve the taste of the meat for a couple of reasons. There are a few different methods of doing this with bleeding immediately after killing the fish a big part of the process. What is the quickest most ethical way of killing a Fish?

Brain Spiking is the fastest, most painless, for preventing a fish from stressing & suffering before its death, by driving a sharp spike or screwdriver into the brain of the fish. The spike should be placed in a position to penetrate the brain of the fish & then pushed quickly & firmly into its skull.

I never thought twice about how the fish that I landed on the beach, boat, or shoreline died but recently I read some articles that maybe there is a reason for it. Why not take an extra couple of minutes and do it the right way? It may not only be a little better for the fish. It will definitely be better for the fish that makes it to your plate.

What is the Quickest Most Ethical Way of Killing a Fish


Ice water will not kill any fish quickly. There are some fish that will stay alive for hours on ice or in icy water. A tropical fish may go into shock, but it won’t die right for a long time. The fish might look dead because the body has stiffened, but that’s just a function of the cold and doesn’t indicate the death of the fish. They will die of Asphyxiation.

Anglers will get ocean fish like Blues or Striped Bass right on ice but are that the right thing to do?  The same with freshwater Lake Trout or Salmon, the fish that are intended to be eaten by the angler who caught them. Is it the most ethical thing to do?

We as fishermen,  just as hunters want to get that kill shot on a deer. To kill an animal with a single shot is the goal of every responsible hunter. Most of us were taught to put a bullet in the “boiler room,” the heart, and lungs. The last thing you want is for any animal or fish to suffer before they die.

Lots of fish are cold-blooded and can sit on ice for hours and resuscitate themselves while you’re busy trying to catch more. Not a pleasant thought. Get it done fast so this doesn’t happen.

Killing fish fast and ethically and getting the bleeding process done can keep fish meat fresher and taste better. By storing the fish in the ice cooler, Asphyxiating is the most probable way any fish dies after it’s been hooked and landed.


Clubbing Fish


One way to kill a fish you just caught is to render them unconscious. Large predator fish like Striped Bass and Bluefish that are freshly caught can be hazardous to the person that is trying to handle them. The more they move the more dangerous not likely they catch a row of teeth on your hand is very possible. There is plenty of salt and freshwater fish that are capable of this. So the quicker you end this movement the better, for you and the better for the fish.

I’ve seen guys who during a frenzy on a Head Boat will slam the fish on the deck of the boat and most of the time this doesn’t work. In fact, all it does is add more blood to the white meat that should be filled and enjoyed. If you beat the crap out of any fish it will add blood to the filets and make the meat taste gamey.

That gamey taste that ruins the flavor of the fish is the blood and lactic acid brought on by stress and trauma that should have been cleaned out of it. It can ruin the taste of any fish. So an even timed hookem-landem-killem-cleanem approach should be used. There is less stress on the fish that’s hooked. It is better for the fish and better for the plate.

Hitting the Fish on the head or Clubbing

  • Once the fish is hooked on fighting and even when it’s out of the water, his adrenaline glands along with stress levels secrete fluids that also ruin the taste of the meat
  • Land the fish as soon as you can
  • Hit the fish in front of his gill plate-above the nose and under the forehead with a fish bat or something heavy and solid.
  • Don’t smash his head all over the deck just give it one or two direct hits that will stun it and knock it unconscious
  • The size of the blow depends on the size of the fish
  •  The blow should be aimed just above the eyes to impact the brain. The effectiveness of the stun should be checked and another blow applied if the fish is not unconscious.


But What is the Best way to euthanize a fish preventing stress and suffering?


How Do You Bleed Out a Fish Humanely?

  • After killing fish by humanely clubbing the head/spiking the brain
  • Sever the main artery inside the gills
  • Make a cut at the fish’s tail
  • Let muscles & heart pump out the blood
  • Hang upside down in a bucket of water to drain blood ………………………………………Read more

How To Spike a Fish


Brain Spiking-This is the best way according to anglers around the world of getting the job done is called Spiking involves driving a sharp spike (such as an ice pick or a sharpened screwdriver) into the brain of the fish. The spike should be placed in a position to penetrate the brain of the fish and then pushed quickly and firmly into the skull.

This should quickly render the fish unconscious and finish him off quickly.  Brain spiking a fish is a fast efficient and painless way of dispatching your unlucky catch. This prevents the fish from stressing and struggling to cause flesh bruising during the fish’s last minutes.

Valuable Bluefin tuna is one of the only wild species that regularly gets slaughtered humanely. It’s a warm-blooded fish, so its meat degrades quickly during premortem stress, similar to beef or pork. A single bluefin tuna can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, so it’s worth it for workers to treat each fish with care.

When a big Tuna Yellowfin is up to 400 lbs and a Bluefin can grow up to 1000 lbs and over is brought onboard.  It can be quite dangerous so professionals will wait until it relaxes and the Tuna will be shot in the brain with a shotgun.

If the tuna is being used for expensive sushi, the spinal cord is then reamed by hand with thick-gauge wire. This commercialization of the Japanese method called Ike Jime on fishing boats has happened for one reason: profit. An unstressed tuna will be worth a fortune at auction. A Burned Tuna is easy to spot for inspectors when the fish is brought home to the market.

Burned Tuna meat is easy for the trained eye to spot—it’s pale and mushy, unsuitable for high-end sushi. Burned Tuna is one that has exhausted itself online before it is landed and makes it onboard the vessel. Farmers have known this rule for many years that a cow, pig, or even a chicken need to feel relaxed before it is slaughtered, otherwise, the meat will be degraded. What the Japanese learned is that fish are no different.


But even we as a layman can see those signs and act on them. Exhaustion creates high levels of lactic acid that can be potentially fatal. Also, large fish have a problem with overheated muscles that actually begin to break down in the course of a long fight.

An exhausted fish can be defenseless and have a lot of problems avoiding predators after release because of the struggle in the water. That exhaustion can last for hours. If your plan is to release a sport fish like a Largemouth Bass or big lake fish try to land them as fast as you can so that these chemical reactions don’t happen even though you have no intentions of eating them


Do Fish Feel Pain


According to PETA, there is overwhelming evidence that fish do feel pain. Most fish killed in the world die from suffocation while being netted on huge fishing ships, not from recreational weekend fishermen like us so I’m not convinced about any statistics like these.

We all still play a part and should be good stewards of the earth. Catch and Release programs are a great way of playing a part in the global effort of protecting what we have and ensuring the next generation can enjoy what we enjoy.


Victoria Braithwaite, professor of fisheries and biology at Penn State University. She co-authored a groundbreaking study in 2003 that suggested fish anatomy was complex enough to experience pain and discomfort. She later wrote the book, “Do Fish Feel Pain?,” which includes this striking line:

“I have argued that there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals — and more than there is for human neonates and preterm babies.” The scientific consensus, Braithwaite tells The Post, is that fish do feel pain. “Whatever that means for the fish,” she adds. “It’s not that they experience the pain that we do, which is more sophisticated.”

What makes this so important is that if the government gets involved with this the perception could lead to changes in laws pertaining to the industry and that might have to amend the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, both of which exclude fish. Weekend anglers might have to kill their fish first before throwing them in a cooler.


Fish farms might have to adopt new methods of slaughter. Commercial trawlers, the boats that roam the world’s oceans, might have to upgrade their equipment to kill fish humanely. It could be a bigger deal than Johnny and Pop going trout fishing on a spring weekend down at the stocked lake.

The innovators in humane slaughter, the professor says, can often be found in aquaculture, the rapidly growing business of raising fish in contained environments. World Bank report estimates that by 2030, aquaculture will supply more than 60 percent of the fish for human consumption, nearly a third more than it supplied in 2006.

Accordingly, aquaculture has been trying to overcome its reputation for polluting the environment and spreading disease.

According to the “NOAA, more than 80% of the seafood consumed in the US is caught in though a large portion of it is caught by U.S. fishermen and sent overseas for processing before returning to American shores.

We can change their habits of how they kill their trout and probably will with few problems but how are the industrial-sized trawlers going to change the way they kill millions of fish is the way that most weekend anglers kill their fish (asphyxiating them) without repercussions that eventually will be hitting the supermarket. Responsible Outdoorsmen and women can’t stop this but we can do the small things that set the presidents to come.

Asphyxiation- It usually takes much longer for a fish to asphyxiate than for a person to drown. It’s a rough way to go for a fish. As a trout convulses, it tears its own muscles apart as they flood with lactic acid and burn up their cellular fuel reserves, triggering a series of chemical reactions that speed the degradation of fat and muscle.

This results in meat that becomes spongier than that from a trout that dies immediately and can add more bacteria than feed as this process is happening. There is plenty of scientific evidence that determines that a fish that is killed right away and bled as fast as possible will taste better.


Ike Jime




Ike jime- is a traditional Japanese method of slaughter that results in better-tasting and longer-lasting meat. It’s nearly impossible to find commercial fish in the US that has been killed with this technique, which is the main reason why high-end sushi restaurants often fly their fish in from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Tsui sees that gap in the market as an opportunity for local producers to sell fresh-caught sashimi-grade fish from the country it will be eaten in.


Electrical Stunning- although not practiced a lot, it is another experimental way of killing large numbers of catches on commercial fishing vessels This ensures that the fisher doesn’t suffer from panicking which as explained earlier affects the chemical that the fish create that will affect the flesh, taste, and meat of the thousands netted fish that are pulled up onto the deck that would normally just lay there and eventually dies from asphyxiating. Since 2016 the Us made commercial Fishing industries have been using electrically charged tanks that hold crabs


What is the Ike Jime Method?

Japanese Iki Jime Method is the fastest, most humane way of euthanizing fish, eliminating stress & lactic acid & maintaining quality by:
inserting a spike into the brain

  • Cutting gills to bleed out
  • Inserting a thin piece of wire into the spike hole & down the spinal column
  • Soaking fish in a saltwater ice bath .……………………………………………………………………..Read more

How Do You Bleed a Fish


  • Keep the fish from banging around as much as possible
  • Kill the fish with one of the procedures found here.
  • Use a good Filet Knife or Pruning shears
  • Cut through the gill rakers on one side of the fish. By only cutting one side of the fish, blood pressure will stay higher, allowing most of the blood to pump out of the fish.
  • Once the blood is out get it on ice water
  • Ice water should be mixed with salt water

A lot of people I know don’t like Bluefish they can be oily if there are bloodlines inside the meat. They look like a black stain on the white meat. It is all about cleaning them fast and right. If you get the blood out of them fast and get them on ice the filets are great-tasting fish on the grill.

The whole secret is getting them bled out right away. Blood is acidic and can ruin the meat as soon as the fish dies it starts to decompose and works its way through the fish.

Bluefish have a bad reputation because people who catch them don’t prep them right. I’m one of those guys who will eat Bluefish and Snapper Bluefish but they need to be bed out and ice. You can filet the fish at home as long as they are bled out and iced. It’s the same with many different fish that are gamey-tasting and oily.

This a great video explaining the two processes of freshwater Salmon. These methods can be used on all types of fish in fresh or saltwater fishing and will improve the process which makes it better for us as stewards of the sport and responsible humans on this earth. Nothing wrong with that.



There may be some fish commercially or recreationally that are sometimes killed in kinder ways, but the vast majority of desirable fish that end up on American plates in restaurants and kitchen tables around the world are pulled from the water and thrown either on ice or left to suffocate, a brutal process of death.

Researchers say that Sea bass put in an ice slurry take five minutes to lose consciousness; carp keep breathing for almost an hour in an ice slurry and five hours if out of the water entirely.

When I’m on fish I never use to think of anything other than, Fish On!  I’m on fish and I need to get my line back into the water and catch more before they leave town. I think most sports fishermen think this way. But maybe we need to slow down just a few minutes and make the best sport in the world just a little more responsible and sustainable for the next generation of anglers coming into the best sport in the world.


How Do You Bleed Ocean Fish?

  • Land the fish as soon as you can
  • Hit fish in front of his gill plate above the nose & under the forehead
  • Cut artery that runs along the bottom of the area between gills
  • Flip the fish over to the other side & repeat your cut on other sets of gills
  • Bleed out for at least 3 min. in a bucket of ocean H2O
  • Ice fish .……………………………………………………………………………………………………….Read more


JimGalloway/Author Editor



The Washington PostScientists say fish feel pain. It could lead to major changes in the fishing industry.


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